Thursday, September 14, 2017

Who Controls Antarctica and Keeps It Strictly Off-Limits to You?

wikipedia |  Seven sovereign states had made eight territorial claims to land in Antarctica south of the 60° S parallel before 1961. These claims have been recognized only between the countries making claims in the area. All claim areas are sectors, with the exception of Peter I Island. None of these claims have an indigenous population. The South Orkney Islands fall within the territory claimed by Argentina and the United Kingdom, and the South Shetland Islands fall within the areas claimed by Argentina, Chile, and the United Kingdom. The UK, France, Australia, New Zealand and Norway all recognize each other's claims.[30] None of these claims overlap. Prior to 1962, British Antarctic Territory was a dependency of the Falkland Islands and also included South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. The Antarctic areas became a separate overseas territory following the ratification of the Antarctic Treaty. South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands remained a dependency of the Falkland Islands until 1985 when they too became a separate overseas territory.

The Antarctic Treaty and related agreements regulate international relations with respect to Antarctica, Earth's only continent without a native human population. The treaty has now been signed by 48 countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, and the now-defunct Soviet Union. The treaty set aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, established freedom of scientific investigation and banned military activity on that continent. This was the first arms control agreement established during the Cold War. The Soviet Union and the United States both filed reservations against the restriction on new claims,[35] and the United States and Russia assert their right to make claims in the future if they so choose. Brazil maintains the Comandante Ferraz (the Brazilian Antarctic Base) and has proposed a theory to delimiting territories using meridians, which would give it and other countries a claim. In general, territorial claims below the 60° S parallel have only been recognised among those countries making claims in the area. However, although claims are often indicated on maps of Antarctica, this does not signify de jure recognition.

All claim areas, except Peter I Island, are sectors, the borders of which are defined by degrees of longitude. In terms of latitude, the northern border of all sectors is the 60° S parallel which does not cut through any piece of land, continent or island, and is also the northern limit of the Antarctic Treaty. The southern border of all sectors collapses in one point, the South Pole. Only the Norwegian sector is an exception: the original claim of 1930 did not specify a northern or a southern limit, so that its territory is only defined by eastern and western limits.[note 2]
The Antarctic Treaty states that contracting to the treaty:
  • is not a renunciation of any previous territorial claim.
  • does not affect the basis of claims made as a result of activities of the signatory nation within Antarctica.
  • does not affect the rights of a State under customary international law to recognise (or refuse to recognise) any other territorial claim.
What the treaty does affect are new claims:
  • No activities occurring after 1961 can be the basis of a territorial claim.
  • No new claim can be made.
  • No claim can be enlarged.
wikipedia |  Positioned asymmetrically around the South Pole and largely south of the Antarctic Circle, Antarctica is the southernmost continent and is surrounded by the Southern Ocean; alternatively, it may be considered to be surrounded by the southern Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans, or by the southern waters of the World Ocean. There are a number of rivers and lakes in Antarctica, the longest river being the Onyx. The largest lake, Vostok, is one of the largest sub-glacial lakes in the world. Antarctica covers more than 14 million km2 (5,400,000 sq mi),[1] making it the fifth-largest continent, about 1.3 times as large as Europe. 

About 98% of Antarctica is covered by the Antarctic ice sheet, a sheet of ice averaging at least 1.6 km (1.0 mi) thick. The continent has about 90% of the world's ice (and thereby about 70% of the world's fresh water). If all of this ice were melted, sea levels would rise about 60 m (200 ft).[43] In most of the interior of the continent, precipitation is very low, down to 20 mm (0.8 in) per year; in a few "blue ice" areas precipitation is lower than mass loss by sublimation and so the local mass balance is negative. In the dry valleys, the same effect occurs over a rock base, leading to a desiccated landscape.